Sunday, November 20, 2016

Common Body Aches and How Massage Therapy Can Help

Working in the health field, I deal with a lot of different "complaints" in my treatment room. Although pain can manifest anywhere in the body, most of my clients come in with issues that surround two areas. 

If you've ever heard that people can "hold their stress" in certain areas of the body, it's true; literally! When you are anxious, stressed or feeling uptight, you tighten up your muscles. The tight muscles pull and can put strain on nerves, joints and bones. This can also be caused by having poor posture and repeating the same movements over long periods of time. 

When my clients are in pain, the first place I expect to hear about it is in their neck and shoulders. This is such a sensitive area that is affected by everything we do. Jobs that require sitting at a computer, holding a child, painting, and texting (!) are just some examples of positions that can put stress on your muscles. I often say that it's way too easy to throw yourself off balance. All you have to do is scrub the shower or have a nice nap on the couch and BOOM, you wake up and can't move your neck. I regularly see clients who have so much tension in their neck that they are experiencing chronic headaches. Those tight muscles can also press on nerves and cause a tingly feeling in your arms or other connecting areas. 

The second most popular area to feel pain is in the lower back. This is usually combined with either pain or problems surrounding the hips and gluteal (butt) muscles. As humans, our bodies are not made to sit as much as we do. I see these issues in people who have office, driving, or other jobs that require sitting for many hours. This pain can also come about from the position of your hips being off or the structure of your feet. Your hip flexors and gluteal muscles become too tight and need massage and/or stretching. When your butt muscles are tight, it often presses on your sciatic nerve and sends shooting pain down your bum and leg. Ouch! 

When we massage these areas, it helps ease pain and takes the pressure off of other structures in your body. It brings circulation and warmth to your knots and tight muscles which creates a healing response. Massage over long periods of time can help correct posture and completely relieve you of your pain! My clients comment that after a massage they have less pain, more range of motion and they sleep better at night. 

The next time you are in pain or feeling tight, try a booking with a massage therapist. You never know what is causing your issues and a massage could completely relieve them for you. Not only will you come out feeling better, but you will sleep like a baby and wake up refreshed and ready to take on the world. :) 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What's in a Knot?

When we are hurting, sometimes a big, small, hard or crunchy "knot" can be felt and found by palpating a muscle. It's uncomfortable, it can restrict your range of motion and you just want it OUT of your body. I get calls and messages all the time for appointments to "work a knot out". But what is a knot? Why is it there? Can we prevent it or make it go away? 

The technical term for a knot is a Myofascial Trigger Point. Myo=Muscle and Fascial= Referring to the fascia (connective tissue). The knots are found between the muscle and surrounding fascia. In these knots we can find wound up muscle fibers and deposits of protein. It's very common to have knots and in my practice I find the most common area for knots are in the muscles between the shoulder blades and the spine. In fact, if someone doesn't have any knots there I find THAT to be odd. Get out of here super bodied freak! ;) 

There is a lot of research going on about how exactly knots form, but it is apparent that muscle contraction has everything to do with it. When a muscle is contracted for too long, it can cause that muscle to stay tight and for a trigger point to form. So when are we harmfully contracting muscles to cause these horrid little creatures? All the time. Sitting, keeping your head down and body bent forward like me while writing this blog on my iPhone, jobs and activities that require your muscles to repetitively do the same movement, poor posture, injuries and STRESS. Stress is a huge one, too. How many times have you been stressed out and noticed that you were clenching your fists, grinding your teeth or holding your shoulders to your ears? Stress causes havoc on the body in many, many ways and muscle pain is just one unfortunate side effect. 

Massage therapy (specifically deep tissue, trigger point and myofascial release) is extremely helpful for loosening up a knot and taking the pain away. It brings blood flow to the area and relaxes the muscle. Massage speaks to the muscles and tells them that everything is going to be alright, to relax and let go. 

Sometimes a knot can even cause pain in an entirely different area than it's located. It is common to find a knot in the neck that has been causing pain in the arm. Once the treatment of the knot is over, the arm often feels much better. 

To prevent and continue to treat knots you should... 

1. Stay hydrated 
2. Exercise
3. Take breaks from repetitive activities and long periods of being sedentary 
4. Stretch your body 
5. Don't sweat the small stuff and take moments for relaxation 
6. Apply hot or cold therapy to tight muscles
7. Live, laugh, love and dance like no one is watching 

Hopefully you are all pain free and avoiding knots as much as possible but if not, the good thing about massage therapy is that it's relaxing, non invasive and benefits your body in many other ways. Cheers to being mindful of your body and leading a healthy and therefore happy life!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Essential oils: Ignore the Hype!

I'm not here to tell you that Essential Oils will change your life and that you should replace your doctor with them. They will not revive you from the dead or make all of your illnesses go away. Sadly, a lot of fads that come around turn into pyramid schemes where people will tell you pretty much anything to get you to buy them. It's lovely that you're selling a great product that can be very useful, but when claims are made that don't always have the same results from person to person, people become upset and people talk. Now, I see Essential Oils being talked about on a regular basis and they are often referred to as impractical or silly. Luckily, this is not always the case. Here are some reasons why you should ignore the hype, get off social media (I don't count) and try Essential Oils if you haven't already.

1. They smell good. 

Um, hi, are you aware of all of the chemicals in perfume and what "musk" is actually made out of? Google it. If anything, Essential Oils smell good and you can feel good about putting them on your skin. Vegan? GOOD, try an EO instead of rubbing animal gland secretions all over your body. They also work lovely with an EO diffuser and make your whole room smell like whichever scent you desire. 

2. As long as they are food grade, you can ingest them. 

You can add a few drops into water and instantly have a tastier beverage. Thieves EO from Young Living has a cinnamon/clove taste and can be used as a breath freshener. Oh lavender, I will never forget the time I put too much of you in my lavender lemonade mix and fell asleep at my own dinner party.

3. They actually do have medicinal qualities.

They are made out of concentrated food and plants. Plants are medicine, food is thy medicine!

4. You can feel even more luxurious while bathing.

Everything will smell good for the entirety of your bathing while your skin is absorbing all of those little plant droplets. 

Here are a few oils I keep handy that have been really helpful for myself and others...

Lemon- Lemon for detox (great detoxifier) and the smell of lemon is very energizing.

Eucalyptus- You know when something smells so good you just want to eat it? This is it. I use this for when I have sinus congestion; just a little droplet in my hand and inhale. Eucalyptus is great for loosening up mucus. You can also put it in the Neti Pot or in your bath for a steam inhalation session.

Peppermint- Headaches. Rub onto area of discomfort and you will feel instant relief. It gives a cooling sensation and has honestly made quite a few of my headaches completely disappear.

Lavender- Lavender can be applied to your skin after a burn to help speed up healing and reduce scarring. I love the smell of lavender. It also makes me feel really sleepy.

Balsam Fir- One word; Christmas. I diffuse this constantly during the holiday season. Also helpful for sinus congestion.

Panaway- Panaway in an essential oil blend from Young Living that I add to my massage oils for pain relief. It's basically an all natural Icy Hot.

Oregano- Oregano is a natural antibiotic. I have cured sinus infections with this oil since regular antibiotics have deemed themselves unsuccessful due to the severity and frequency that I can't breath out of my nostrils. Take the oil, drop it in a capsule (look up measurements) and ingest. Do not put Oregano oil on your skin. I'm pretty sure I burned a piece of my face off thinking maybe it would help with my acne. Bad choice. Anyway, you should talk to your doctor (Naturopath, whatever) before messing around with this stuff; it's pretty powerful.

There are several other EO's that I use for making things smell good such as soaps, lotions and oils. If you want me to add an oil to your massage, just ask!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

CUPPING: What even is it?

News flash! Traditional Chinese Medicine is cool. In fact, any traditional medicine east of the good ol' USA that uses ancient techniques to treat and prevent illness is pretty spectacular. We westerners are notorious for doing bad things to our bodies and running to our holy doctors to invade our organs and prescribe drugs to fix everything. There's no shame in living an unhealthy lifestyle (because YOLO) and our conventional medicine is nothing short of miraculous, especially when you really need it. But with that thought aside, what is America all about? Let's say it together! FREEDOM! Freedom of choice. We can chose to learn about different methods of medicine or stay safe (debatable) in our own little worlds. Most alternative medicine focuses on preventive measures. My choice is to use my Holistic Doctor (main squeeze) to maintain good health and treat minor problems and keep my Allopathic Doctor as my side lady in case I need surgery. I enjoy being a little sponge at every appointment and putting things in my bag of tricks so I can nerd out whenever I'm around someone whose feeling under the weather. Whatever you decide, you do you, boo. These blog posts are to give you ideas and show you that you have options and a lot of them are pretty rad.

CUPPING: The application of suction to the body. 

Warning: You will look like a pepperoni pizza. 

This type of therapy has been used by cultures for over 3500 years. The benefits of cupping are similar to those of massage only instead of pressing down on the skin and muscles, the suction pulls the skin up. There are many reasons why this is effective. First, it pulls blood to areas that do not have a lot of blood flow, such as knots and or damaged tissue. This creates a healing effect just as massaging out a knot would. Second, it pulls and stretches on the facia, a layer of tissue surrounding the muscle that often becomes tight and restricts range of motion. Cupping is also detoxifying and pulls nasty toxins out that NOBODY wants or needs. 

You may have heard through the grapevine that cupping can also help to reduce cellulite. The cups, again, bring blood flow to the area and break up fatty tissue (cellulite). The build up is moved to the lymph and pushed out of your system. 

The first time I experienced cupping, I left relaxed, more positive and free of pain. The tightness in one of my gluteal muscles felt like it was actually being pulled out! My massage therapist was able to work on other areas of my body while the cups were in place. Double the work in the same amount of time. Genius. I had cups on my back, glutes and arms. I left with a lot of little pepperoni marks and pep in my step. 

Curiosity and an open mind can lead you to experience things that can be really beneficial to your health and life. There are many modalities in the world of wellness that may seem strange or have little current scientific research to back them up. Please don't knock them for those reasons alone. In my line of work, I hear about many many success stories in alternative medicine and have my own success stories to tell. Don't knock it til' you try it and don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Touch: Essential for Life

There was a small bit of time before and throughout the beginning of massage school where I very often thought things such as "Ugh, is this the right career path for me? Do I feel passionate about this? Are my hands going to hurt?" and so on. I had three plans in my head when I was sitting in the academic advisors chair and not sure where to head with them. Either I would continue to persue writing, delve into the world of psychology or become a massage therapist. They all seemed bright and shiny because they all had aspects in which I felt extremely passionate about. I love to write, it's in my blood. If I became a psychologist, I could feed that hunger I have for helping people emotionally. Massage therapy? Well alternative health is kind of my thing, so that might work too. But how do you really KNOW? I could have sat around and loathed over my inability to be decisive but I decided to pick one and hope for the best. Luckily, my career allows me to do all of the things I thought I needed to choose from and more.

Okay so let's get to the point of the post, shall we? In my second year of school I finally had that "Aha" moment I had been waiting for. I took a lovely class called "Somatics" which would make any hippie hater cringe. Yes, I loved the slow paced other worldly feeling of the class but what really got to me was the book we read. If you haven't picked up "Touched by the Goddess" by Deane Juhan and have any interest in massage or being a caring human then I highly suggest you do. I cried, I released, my heart was filled with compassion and love. THIS is why I am doing this! The universe lead me here to help people with the power of touch. It's not only about helping the muscular system but also touching people on a deeper level. Touching their soul. Nourishing their spirit and giving one of the most valuable and necessary components of human life. Here is what I learned...

During World War II, orphanages were horrified and confused at the amount of infants that were unexpectedly dying. Large numbers of perfectly healthy babies who were being fed, changed and looked after were suddenly lifeless. Eventually, thanks to ongoing studies with adorable monkeys, a link was found between infants and their need for human touch. The lack of a regular nurturing touch for these innocent lives was disallowing healthy growth of their organs. ALL of their other needs were met; the things that we were all originally taught are needed for survival.

So what does this mean for post infancy? Maybe we are getting into opinions now, but look at how powerful a caress over a child's back can be. A gentle rock or a soothing hug can literally put life into these tiny beings. As we get older, do we really lose our need for safe touch? When we look at the world of massage, we see many different aspects. In general, massage helps to relieve muscle tension and relax a client. These are two of the main reasons why people seek massage therapy. When we look at it from other angles we can see that massage benefits almost every existing human condition out there. Whether it be PTSD, trauma, digestive disorders or insomnia, you are not just loosening muscles here. And what is massage but just another word for touch? I touch you, you begin a healing process of a suppressed traumatic experience. Now that's what I call powerful.

So in conclusion, please do not forget to hug your friends, pet your animals and maybe go in for regular massage if you're dealing with some deeper issues. Safe touch is love and you deserve it.